2 weeks ago, I read a Steam-linked article of the top 100 Steam games of 2017. Listed in the “Platinum” rating was the game, Warframe, which I had not heard of prior to reading the article. The magic phrase “free-to-play sci-fi MMO shooter” caught my eye (not surprising), and things went from there. 80 hours of logged gameplay later, I am still a newbie in Waframe, and still having an amazing time. Given that Warframe has taken over my gaming time of late, I figure I will emerge from my blogging stasis and discuss the game.
What is Warframe?
Warframe was released in 2013 by Canadian game studio Digital Extremes (DE). DE is probably most known for work in the Unreal series, and have also contributed in developing the Bioshock series. I will delve into the different gameplay parts of Warframe throughout the article, but the initial description of “f2p sci-fi MMO shooter” doesn’t come close to describing the game. The game probably draws the most comparisons to the Destiny series, given the setting and gameplay elements. An important distinction is that Warframe shows the third-person perspective, while Destiny is first-person.
The planetary travel and resource collection system draw some comparisons to No Man Sky. The hack-and-slash aspect of levels seem a bit like Diablo sometimes. It is just a huge amalgamation of things, and is actually coming up on it’s 5th anniversary. It’s pretty cool that such cool game seemed to have come out a long time ago in game years.
Missions and Quests
Your player character is called a Tenno, and are introduced to the game as an enslaved prisoner. Suddenly, you are told by The Lotus to escape. After this tutorial, you board a spaceship, which becomes your UI for accessing all parts of the game, not unlike the ships in Starcraft II. You start off on Earth, fighting through “nodes,” until you reach a junction to a neighboring planet. Venus acts as the first junction, for example, but you could head off to Mars soon after. You fight a junction guardian as a test to move to the next planet or moon.
There are main quests you complete to move the story along, but every single node is a repeatable mission. Every mission falls into a general type. You have basic Extermination missions, where you just have to kill x things. Spy missions involve stealth, bypasses, and lots of hacking. Excavation and Survival missions typically have no end, and you can keep farming the level for more loot. While missions can be solo or co-op, some objectives are just difficult to do solo. This is when I get into co-op games to get through the mission.
Void Fissure levels are common levels which corrupt the enemies you face. While they aren’t much more difficult than the regular enemies in a level, you can bring your Void Relics to these levels, and unlike a certain rare Blueprint or part.
Further, special events happen all of the time. Alerts pop up in random nodes, which reward lots of game currency, and special items. Two warring factions could be fighting in a node, and you could join either faction. And Syndicates of course. You can join unaligned factions, which initiate you into the group to give perks in rewards. But with joining a Syndicate, you make enemies with other Syndicates, and they send assassins to kill you in the middle of other missions.
As mentioned, Warframe is third-person, where you see your Tenno on the screen all of the time. I personally like third-person over first-person, which is likely a bias of my playing Syphon Filter a ton. Third-person shooters also afford easier usage of cover, but is less realistic.
Like many games, you have health and shields, with shields being regenerative. You can still replenish health by collecting globes or through abilities. You also have an energy meter, for use of your special abilities. Ammo count is fairly typical, with max ammo and clip ammo. The level of your weapons and armor is always shown. Unlike many games, your character doesn’t have something like grenades, but thrown weapons are in the game.
Melee combat is very important in Warframe. Sometimes you need to conserve ammo. Sometimes things get too crowded, and the hassle of reloading in the middle of combat is too dangerous. Sometimes your weapon is just better against a group of enemies. Weapons also provide parry abilities, allowing you to block enemy shots, to preserve health.
And of course, the parkour aspect. Because the Tenno are basically space ninjas, you do many athletic moves to go with the shooting and slashing. These moves include sliding, jumping, doing multiple jumps, wall jumps, ziplining, etc. An experienced player can use parkour skills to get out of hairy situations and just win fights. A forgiving aspect of Warframe I like is that they don’t count fall deaths towards your death limit in a mission. I personally hate “jumping levels,” and they forgive you for bad jumps.
Other than enemies, you interact with the environment around you. You can loot lockers, chests, and resource piles. You do hacking often to open doors, reset enemy alarms, or sabotage the enemy. You interact with hostages and can give them weapons. Wild animals exist as well.
Oh yeah, Archwing missions. You basically fly around in outer space in your Archwing suit, and complete missions. While I have yet to do decently in these missions, they just look really cool if you enjoy staring into the cosmos.
All of your equipment levels up to a max of level 30, which all add up to your Mastery Rank. Your Mastery Rank grants access to buying things, or other permissions.
Your armor is called the titular Warframe, and is basically tied to what special skills you use, and your base health, shields, speed, etc. Primary weapons are all types of big guns like assault rifles, sniper rifles, shotguns, launchers, and various bows. I am finding a liking to sniper rifles early on. Secondary weapons are your smaller SMGs, handguns, specialty pistols, thrown ninja weapons, etc. While secondary weapons are ignored in many games, you are forced to use them in several Warframe missions. Your melee weapon takes up your fourth slot.
You can also equip a companion, either some type of robot or and organic creature. These help you in combat situations, grant you shields, etc.
Everything can also be modded. Your equipment have slots in which you put Mods you find in missions. These grant shield/health buffs, ability buffs, extra damage, elemental damage, fire rate buffs, quicker reloading, etc. Two different elemental mods can be combined in a weapon to provide a new type of elemental damage. For example, Cold + Toxin = Viral. You can further trick out your gear with Orokin Reactions (or Potato), which double the amount of slots in your equipment.
You do all your crafting in the Foundry. Unlike under loot-based games, you don’t find Warframes or weapons looted on the ground. You can only find Blueprints. Blueprints allow you to craft things, so as long as you have the other reagents to craft it. This is where the grindy part of the game comes in, where you must scrounge the universe for spare parts. Collecting basic resources adds up over time, but often you need reagents that are in another planet you cannot access yet. Sometimes you will also need to farm bosses or enemies for drops of Blueprints or parts to craft something. Void Relics and Void Fissure levels do provide some good Blueprints for making weapons and Warframes.
There is also the time aspect for crafting. While it takes a while to scrounge the reagents, the “real” crafting wait is something. Warframes take a 3 full days to make, and weapons usually take 12 or 24 hours. You craft everything you need in the game, and they all don’t take this long, but be prepared to wait.
Market and In-Game Currency
Warframe notoriously uses the slogan, “Ninjas Play Free.” It is a f2p game, but they make you work for being f2p.
Your main in-game currency are called Credits, and they are either rewarded in large sums for Alert missions, dropped by enemies, looted in the environment, or obtained in sales. Platinum are the “pay-to-win” currency, and are obtained with real money. You also obtain Platinum by trading with other players, something a f2p person must do well. Platinum allows you to get good instantly from the Market, and allows you do rush the crafting in the Foundry. While you can still get Warframes and weapons in the Market with Credits and resources, you are getting Blueprints, which come with the added crafting costs and time wait.
The Market also has another myriad of goods. Like many modern games, there is a ton of customization for your Tenno, companion, and spaceship. Various skins, color palettes, sigils, etc can be bought in the Market.
A Non-Toxic Community
There’s a chat window in Warframe, which is mostly spammed for people trying to sell or buy things, which is a real use. I noticed that people aren’t really mean while playing Warframe. As described by people, it is likely a nice community, as the game is almost entirely PvE, and not PvP. This is something I had not really thought about prior, but it seems true. My previous experiences in the Diablo III community were almost always positive, as we were just fighting computer enemies. That’s not to say that people who play Warframe are nice all the time in other games, or IRL, but they are nice when playing the game. This comes in handy when doing co-op, trading, or joining a clan.
The game developers of Warframe are very unique, and makes me think Digital Extremes is something else. DE is small indie game company. The community manager, Rebecca, not only runs many of the video streaming shows, but also is the voice actor for The Lotus. Their devs are the clothing models in the merchandise shop. They are very genuine and seem to have a very transparent process. They’ve been doing Dev Streams and other video media since 2013, when they launched. In Dev Streams, they bring real submitted questions to directly as devs about game progress and what they are working on. They promo new features all the time in dev streams. They also drink beer and admit to being slow, or admit shortcomings in the game.
There is also a cool rewards program setup by Warframe for Twitch. If you watch Dev Streams or partnered streamers on Twitch, you earn in-game rewards depending on how long you watched. They also do raffles for free Platinum, or other rewards during Dev Streams.
An Addictive Grind
I admit I don’t come with the stale bias that veteran Warframe players would have, as I literally just started the game and I am coming in with fresh eyes. But there is something cool about this nearly 5-year-old game, which feels like it could’ve came out in 2018. While the grind of being f2p is a work in progress in Warframe, I still cannot put the game down. I am having a great time playing Warframe now, and look forward to more in the future.